Farewell to Australia, In More Ways Than One?

by Graeme Ogg

I bought the latest copy of Autocar magazine and read that Australian car manufacturing will come to an end when the iconic Holden brand closes its last domestic plant later this year. Ford stopped building cars locally a year ago. Toyota will close its assembly plant (building Camrys for export) a couple of weeks before Holden. And of course Chrysler, another big name in Australian automotive history, sold out to Mitsubishi around 1980, and Mitsubishi eventually gave up in Oz in 2008.

1/43 Trax Ford Falcon GT

The problem for local manufacturers is that Australians have become spoiled for choice with foreign brands, and demand for home-grown Fords and Holdens fell off to the point where local component manufacturers couldn’t make a living from the low production numbers so, ironically, components were being imported to build cars in a country which is surrounded by developing nations like Thailand and Indonesia where labour costs are much lower. Not really a viable long-term option (subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of AU$5 billion over the last 10 years).

And now the problem for Aussie car buyers (or at least for those who want fast, powerful cars) is that they are starting to wonder what can replace the hot Falcons and Commodores which gave them spectacular turbocharged V8 performance at a fraction of the price you pay for such cars elsewhere. Unfortunately, Ford and Holden could only afford to develop these low-volume specialist hot rods when the profits from healthy high sales of their bread-and-butter models were pouring in. No longer.

For 1:43 collectors who have taken an interest in the Australian motoring scene over the years, I guess it’s the end of an era, and we should be grateful to the likes of Trax (and maybe Biante and Classic Carlectables and one or two oddballs like Dinkum Classics) for filling our shelves with a decent representative range of models from what I suppose will come to be called the Golden Age of Australian car production.

Alas, for me, I think there’s another kind of Australian farewell on the cards. I recently ordered a model from the Trax “Wrecking Yard” (remaindered stock). A Ford Falcon GT in the Opal series.

1/43 Trax Ford Falcon GT

Just AU$35. But shipping was AU$20, and it seems that UK Customs are so desperate to increase revenues they are picking on every little package, so they added £8 (AU$13) import duty, and Royal Mail added another £8 processing charge for collecting the duty. So my AU$35 model cost me $80. The new Trax Ford Galaxie looks pretty good, but at AU$ 160 it’s more than some Matrix models and nearly 50% more than some of the best Neos, Trax shipping for this series is double their usual, and I can just imagine the import duty scaled up accordingly. So I fear it’s “Goodbye, Trax, nice knowing you”.

[Editor’s Note: GM also said goodbye to Vauxhall and Opel this week.  Big changes are happening globally in the auto world.]

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